August 21, 2020

Happy Friday, Friends!

This has really been a great week in so many ways. Schools are reporting getting kids back to campus and back online. Staff is feeling more confident seeing the plans and the kids in motion. And yet, never have we all been as bone and brain tired as we are right now.

This article gave good words to what I have been feeling and what I have heard expressed by many of you, including those with seemingly endless amounts of energy. It reminded me that we need to continue to pay attention to these signals in ourselves, our families, friends, and colleagues. As leaders, we need to make sure we replenish our reserves, but we also need to make sure our teams do the same (for those who need a shot in the arm on that front, see Clay Christensen’s article on How to Measure Your Life). We at SAIS are working on ways to help you and your staff do that. However, if you have some ideas, please feel free to send them my way at

Along those lines, I have a low level, yet consistent uneasiness around the stability of our workforce in the months and years ahead. While the plural of anecdote is not data, unexpected turnover in staff is a frequent conversations these days. This hiring piece from RG175 might be helpful, but we should also be thinking about ways to stabilize our teams and maybe tap into new recruiting markets.

While I recognize that it would be nice to just enjoy the moment of being out of pre-launch mode, and maybe take an hour or two to enjoy that, we need to get focused on the evolution of our institutions and sector and how we enter the next normal stronger than before. Some of you might want to throw rocks at me right now for moving on to the next thing, so I am going to calmly put a few pieces in your path for consideration when you are ready. Start with this one from HBR on moving into and leading during this “recovery phase.” It’s sort of reflective of my first paragraph, but not as goopy. The next is this one around understanding and shaping consumer behavior. This one goes deep into skills for students in the future, and putting student support and wellness and the center of focus. It also provides some insight into creating and maintaining the community of teachers for the long-term. And, finally, I love this multi-part exchange between a head of an international school and a practitioner at Stanford’s around designing using futures thinking. Really, it’s worth reading even if the term “futures thinking” makes the grammarian in your head cringe.  


Okay, quick hits…

  • Admissions season! Ha. That’s right. Time to start thinking about getting all of that machinery going for next year, when we know that some of you are still wrestling with admissions for this year! Start slow with this report on what admission will look like this year.
  • Wondering if school leaders around the world are worried about the same things you are or taking the same steps? These survey results from AAIE might be interesting to you, particularly with the breakdowns of ages, risk levels, and geography.
  • For those looking for some back to school specific resources: Ravenscroft shared these visuals for responses to symptoms and exposure (FYI – Fisher Phillips pulled together the CDC guidance as it relates to employees in particular – nice table). We had a fabulous session with three heads who opened school last week, the recording is here. We have another one of these sessions next week, for which you can register here.  Kevin Plummer talks about their reopening at Tampa Prep on this EMA podcast.
  • We spoke about state liability shield laws at the heads’ roundtable last week, and sure enough, both TN and GA passed those laws recently. For our NC schools, here is that notice that Duke put together to help meet the requirements of the NC liability law. Do check on the details of how these laws are working in your state to make sure you have in place everything you need to meet the protection requirements.
  • Our friends at Authentic Connections put out a white paper with the results of their student surveys through the pandemic, as well as recommendations around continued student wellness. They will be joining us for the annual conference in October.
  • In the arena of other things keeping me up at night… There is this movement for a “Tuition-Payers Bill of Rights.” This is aimed at higher ed, but it doesn’t take much to move it into the independent school world.
  • Speaking of higher ed. UNC surprised almost nobody when they moved online this week. This piece goes inside the myriad decisions along UNC’s journey.
  • And, higher ed is gearing up for this fall’s admissions ride. As the Gen X parents of a senior, my son is seeing a side of his parents that he didn’t know existed. When the University of Chicago rep from last night said “we don’t really pay much attention to grades,” I am pretty sure my guffaw carried through the mute function. Either way, he holds a still winning bingo card here as his SAT site for next weekend is still moving ahead. This is not the case for the vast majority of students. At least we have not gone the way of the UK predictive algorithm that has caused such agitation. That being said, state scholarships that hinge on standardized test scores have often held steady on their standardized test requirements, something that will be challenging for this year’s senior class.
  • As last year’s students come home from colleges moving online, and this year’s seniors look to a questionable year next year, gap years are definitely getting more attention. As your school hears more about colleges moving to online, you might reach out to your newly minted alums to provide additional support. This is going to be a topic to watch this year and beyond and we have two fabulous speakers in Jeff Selingo and Michael Horn who have spent a lot of time thinking about higher ed, but also have been deep into the heart of the college admissions beast at our annual conference.
  • As schools have started up, the focus is coming back to pedagogy, particularly in the complex world of teaching students in-person and online. This reflection from a teacher is really wonderful for its concrete takeaways and depth. There has been a lot of focus on cameras on or off lately, and this essay argues for the “off” side of things; it’s worth a read. Here is an awesome overview on creating feelings of belonging in an online space. Here is a great set of visuals and resources around rethinking teaching in 2020.
  • Some of you might have heard that the Democrats held a convention this week and the Republicans will be on deck next week. Now is a good time to start thinking about all things election, and this quick legal piece on politics in the workplace might be helpful. I also wrote this piece for NAIS a few years ago on dos and don’ts during election cycles (the original, extended dance version is here). We also did a webinar on civil discourse with TAIS executive director Sarah Wilson this spring. The recording is available.

Finally, we have been working to populate and support our diversity, equity, and inclusion listserve and roundtables, and create more resources. This one might be of particular interest to schools that are working hard to respond to the racial justice movement.  We had a round table meeting this week and some wonderful resources were shared, including this one around talking about race in the classroom, and particularly around affinity group work . The links are included below. If you have a staff member who is leading your diversity and equity work, would you encourage them to create a profile on our website so that they can join the conversation? We are working to create more resources and opportunities to support schools in this work.

In closing … I do love a feel-good story, so check out this spotlight on a project involving three of our schools. For those of you longing for news of the weird… the llamas might still save us from COVID, but if they don’t the horses might.

Have a great weekend and get some rest!!